Archive for March, 2009

A Great Restaurant Close to Windsor Palms

March 26th, 2009 by Alison | Comments Off | Filed in Orlando Vacation Homes, Restaurants
Want to dine at a great restaurant close to Windsor Palms?

Want to dine at a great restaurant close to Windsor Palms?

One of the great things about staying in Windsor Palms is that you are so close to Disney World. And that means you are within very easy reach of all the great restaurants that Disney World has to offer. The very closest Disney restaurant to the resort is actually one of my favorites. Jiko The Cooking Place at Animal Kingdom Lodge. This excellent innovative restaurant is just a short 7 minute drive from Windsor Palms.

As soon as you walk in to Animal Kingdom Lodge you are transported to a different world – the sights, sounds and atmosphere of a luxury safari lodge in Africa. It is one of the most amazingly themed Disney resorts and is always worth a visit when you are staying at Windsor Palms. Relax in the amazing lobby and enjoy a drink or a snack from the bar.

But if you want a real culinary treat the get yourself a table at Jiko The Cooking Place. An excellent fine dining experience where you will find that the kids are welcome too. The cuisine is African, Indian and Mediterranean inspired. So a pretty broad spectrum of flavors there. No, don’t be put off by this – it really works I promise you!

As you walk into Jiko you may start thinking that it reminds you of a Disney movie. Well it should as the design was inspired by Disney’s The Lion King. The center of the restaurant is the show kitchen with twin wood burning ovens where you will see the talented chefs preparing the food. You are greeted by a student from Africa who is part of the Disney cultural exchange progam – where young people from around the world spend a year working around Disney World.

The service at Jiko is exceptional. Highly skilled waiters, many of whom are also sommeliers will guide you around the innovative menu and exclusively South African wine list.

So what is on the menu at Jiko? The Flatbreads are a specialty and definitely worth trying. My kids just love those. Other favorites from the appetizer selection are Curried Samosas and the roasted sweet potato soup. I have to say I have never tried the Spiced Ostrich Filet but I hear that it is very good. Entrees range from around $30 and upwards. Great options include Swahili Curry Shrimp, Maize Crusted Halibut and Oak-Grilled Filet Mignon. To finish the meal try my favorite – the Pistachio Creme Brulee. Or if chocolate is what you crave then the Tanzanian Chocolate Cheesecake is also excellent.

There is also a great vegetarian menu. My favorite entree from this is Swahili Curried Vegetables with Tofu which is priced at $26.

What I really like about this restaurant though is that it is fine dining where they really do welcome the children. It is Disney after all! There is a kids menu available with the usual favorites including Grilled Cheese and Peanut Butter and Jelly. Kids entrees range from $7 and up.

A visit to Jiko is well worth the splurge. As with all Disney restaurants it is wise to book ahead by calling 407 WDW DINE up to 90 days ahead.

Photos used under Creative Commons from framedanddriedl

Disney Park Hopper

March 20th, 2009 by Alison | Comments Off | Filed in Disney World, Orlando Theme Parks
Do you need a Disney World Park Hopper Pass?

Do you need a Disney World Park Hopper Pass?

Are you visiting Disney World and are confused about all the different ticket options available? It can seem complicated but if you break it down into easy steps then you will soon be able to work out which Disney ticket option is the right one for you and your family.

Your basic option is a Disney World Magic Your Way Base Ticket. This ticket lets you visit one park per day. The tickets expire 14 days after their first use and are not transferable to anyone else.

Prices including tax available at Disney World

Days

Adult

Child (aged 3 to 9)

1

$79.88

$67.10

2

$158.69

$133.13

3

$225.78

$190.64

4

$233.24

$195.96

5

$236.43

$199.16

6

$239.63

$202.35

7

$242.82

$205.55

8

$246.02

$208.74

9

$249.21

$211.94

10

$252.41

$215.13

So just what is a Disney World Park Hopper ticket? Well remember that the base ticket gets you into one park per day. The Park Hopper allows you to visit more than one park in each day. So you could start at Disney Hollywood Studios in the morning and then travel to Epcot for the Illuminations fireworks in the evening. Or start at Animal Kingdom and catch the Festival of the Lion King, but go to Magic Kingdom in the evening.

Is a Park Hopper worth the extra money? The cost to add a Park Hopper option to any Base Ticket is $53.25. So it is the same price to add a Park Hopper option to any Disney ticket – whether it is for 2 days or up to 10 days. The per day cost is only $5.32 if you have a 10 day ticket but adds almost $27 a day if you have a 2 day ticket.

You really have to think about how you are going to plan your visit to Disney World to see whether you need a Park Hopper. It can be a great option and many guests always get a Hopper pass. But others never use it. You have to remember that it does take time to transfer from one park to another. So think carefully before choosing a Disney Park Hopper. Always remember too that you can upgrade your ticket if you change your mind. You can buy a base Disney World ticket and then upgrade to add a Park Hopper or Water Park and More option if you find that you need one.

Where should you buy your Disney World tickets? The first thing to say is that there are definitely certain places you should not buy your ticket – eBay and unauthorized ticket dealers. There are some Disney ticket scams out there so just don’t take the risk.

A safe place to buy Disney tickets? Disney itself of course – either online at Disney World or at the gate. But there is a safe alternative which will save you money. A reliable Authorized Disney Ticket dealer such as the one I recommend to all my guests Orlando Fun Tickets The savings can really add up – for example your family could quickly save up to $50 for a Disney 5 Day Park Hopper.

Don’t forget the Disney Water Parks and Disney Quest. You can also add a Water Park and Fun option which can be great value if you are going to visit a water park more than once. The cost of a Water Park and Fun option is just $53.25 which can offer excellent value for your family.

If you would like to know more about the Disney Park Hopper Ticket and all the other options available – as well as see some of my very favorite pictures of Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom – I have written a free guide for you: Disney World Should I Be A Park Hopper?

The amazing Disney World Cinderella Castle photo used under Creative Commons and with kind permission from expressmonorail

Windsor Palms Take Out Delivery

March 19th, 2009 by Alison | 1 Comment | Filed in Orlando Vacation Homes, Restaurants

Let’s face it. Even though one of the advantages of renting a Windsor Palms vacation home is that you have your own fully equipped luxury kitchen, not everyone actually wants to cook in there! So if heating up a take out is all you want to do on your vacation you will need some suggestions of restaurants and take outs which will deliver right to your door. Then all you have to do for dinner is to get out of the swimming pool to answer the door!

If you are staying in one of my Windsor Palms homes and are looking for inspiration on what to have for dinner always look in the kitchen drawers. No you won’t find a gourmet meal in there unfortunately but you will find lots of take out menus!

If you like Chinese food then Taste of China will deliver food to Windsor Palms. Their number is 407-397-9911 or toll free 1-866-397-1890. They have all the usual Chinese food favorites and do not use MSG. You can also call ahead and pick up as they are located on your way back from the parks – inside Formosa Plaza next to the grocery store. I have eaten there many times and the food is good and ready quickly.

If pizza is more your thing then you have quite a lot of choice. There is a Pizza Hut take out located close to Windsor Palms at 8557 W Irlo Bronson Hwy Kissimmee FL 34747. To order call 407-239-4456. Usually there are coupons available and again, look in the house to see if there are any coupons or online at Pizza Hut to find the best deals. There are often some good deals that you can pick up online so it is always worth looking if you can. The registration and ordering process is not that easy though in my experience so you may be tempted just to pick up the phone.

Dominos Pizza will also deliver to Windsor Palms resort. Their number is 407-420-7272. Still wanting more pizza take out choice? Then try Papa John’s Pizza of 877-420-7272.

Outback Steakhouse is the very closest restaurant to Windsor Palms and they do curbside take out. Almost as good as delivery but not quite! Their number is 407-396-0017.

So there is plenty of choice for what to eat when you are staying in Windsor Palms resort. And you never have to do any of the work – just pick up the phone and dial!

Orlando Villa Discount Offers

March 16th, 2009 by Alison | Comments Off | Filed in Orlando Vacation Homes

Are you looking for a discount offer for Disney World vacation? Then why not think about renting a vacation villa close to Disney World. Rental homes offer so much better value than hotel rooms. More space, no hidden charges, great resort facilities and of course a private swimming pool all to yourself.

But let’s face it. Not all Orlando vacation homes are created equal. Just as the choice of hotels in the Disney area is from a cheap motel right up to a 5 star luxury hotel – you will find a similar range of choice for vacation villas too.

Are you looking for a home which will give you real value for money? A high standard vacation home on a modern resort, close to Disney World? Then consider Solana resort. Located just 15 minutes from Disney this is a perfect choice for a family vacation. Solana has all the advantages of a beautiful resort, close to Disney World, for less than you may think.

Solana resort Orlando is a gated resort with a huge resort swimming pool with cabanas – it has the feel of a 5 star resort. The large clubhouse has an internet cafe, fitness room, video games arcade, internet access, organized events and even a concierge to help you with your vacation plans. There is a play ground for the children and a putting green for all the family to enjoy.

For this month I am offering a special discount rate for all bookings made to 7 nights in May at just $995 for my 5 bedroom home. This offer is valid for any bookings arriving on a Saturday and includes taxes and solar pool and spa heat. Up to 10 people can stay very comfortably in this luxury home which has 2 King master bedrooms,a Queen and 2 additional bathrooms. The swimming pool and deck is one of the largest on the resort at 36′.

May is one of the very best times to visit Disney World. Why are the prices so low at this time? Well let’s have some honesty here! May is a quiet month for vacation rentals. My homes are booking very well for 2009 – it is my best year ever in nearly a decade. But May is always quiet. So take advantage of the low prices, low crowds (that equals very little wait time in the theme park lines) and of course the great Orlando weather. So what are you waiting for? Just click on the contact form to send me an email with your preferred dates.

Villas in Orlando

March 10th, 2009 by Alison | Comments Off | Filed in Orlando Vacation Homes

Renting a villa in Orlando is a great option to keep costs down for your family holiday to Orlando. Many of my villa guests are from Great Britain – and as they will know only too well the value of the British pound against the dollar has fallen a lot in the past 6 months or so.

So as many Orlando villa owners are from the US their rates have gone up considerably for British visitors. Last August the dollar was 2 for 1 to the pound so $1000 would have cost you 500 British Pounds. But now that $1000 would be around 750 British Pounds.

So what can visitors from the UK to Orlando wanting to rent a villa do? Firstly remember that a vacation home will save you money over an hotel in Orlando. Hotels and travel agents have adjusted their costs too so the problem is the same. But not only do you save on the per night cost in an holiday home you also save on other ‘hidden’ costs. Some hotels charge for parking, use of facilities, phone costs can add up quickly if you want to phone home, and pretty much all hotels charge for internet access which can be up to $15 a day. Then if you add all the savings up that you will make on not eating out, even if you just skip a couple of restaurant meals, you will soon find that an Orlando vacation home saves you hundreds of pounds.

But what can you do about the higher cost in pounds of some homes? I am British but live in the US for most of the year – so I understand the problems of the British guest in finding a high quality luxury Orlando villa for a good price. So I decided to launch an offer for British guests who book one of my 5 bed Orlando vacation homes before 30th March.

Any bookings for my Windsor Palms conservation view luxury 5 bed home arriving in May 2009 I am offering at a rate of just 750 British Pounds per 7 nights. This rate is available to any booking of 7 nights or more arriving and departing on a Saturday. It includes taxes and solar pool heating. Other start dates are available but will be at a slightly higher rate. This home sleeps up to 10 people – so that is just 75 pounds per week per person for one of the best homes in the area. Quote Code WPGB which is valid for all bookings made up to 30th March.

Looking for even more offers. My Solana vacation home is available for the same dates in May or September for just 675 British pounds per night. Quote SRGB for this fantastic discount offer.

Disney World Roller Coasters

March 5th, 2009 by Alison | 1 Comment | Filed in Disney World, Orlando Theme Parks, Rides

Want to accelerate from 0 to 57 mph in just 2.8 seconds and experience more G Force than a Space Shuttle launch? If that sounds like your idea of fun then Aerosmith’s Rock N Roller Coaster at Disney Hollywood Studios is the place to be. But one of the most popular Disney World roller coasters travels at just 28 mph. Which one is that? Space Mountain of course!

Disney World has some of the world’s most innovative roller coasters. They don’t try and be the biggest, the highest or the fastest. But Disney always uses imagination to make their roller coasters an experience.

One of my favorites is Rock N Roller Coaster and this was the Disney ride that I credit with actually getting me started with roller coasters. At other theme parks (yes I do go to them too) I would always be the family member sitting the scary roller coasters out. No it’s fine, I’ll stay with the kids who aren’t tall enough to ride. But to be honest I was getting bored of that. Perhaps I was missing out. So I decided to start with Rock N Roller Coaster. Thinking back I am not sure how I picked this as my first roller coaster adventure – perhaps I was tempted by the huge guitar outside and the Aerosmith music! The fact that I couldn’t see what was in store probably helped too. This is a roller coaster in the dark so you have no sense of what you are letting yourself in for……

I still remember the feeling of lining up waiting to go on the ride. Fear. But I was so glad that I did. I realized what I had been missing out on. 2 minutes 2 seconds of pure adrenaline. I never looked back. I was a Disney roller coaster convert.

Having started with perhaps the most intense Disney roller coaster I thought perhaps the others would be a disappointment. I was wrong. The others are just different. All have the Disney attention to detail. The newest Disney Mountain is Expedition Everest. I watched it being built in Animal Kingdom and waited. It was not a disappointment. Disney Imagineers spent 6 years researching and building the Expedition Everest ride. And it shows in the amazing attention to detail. The story is based around the legend of the Yeti. There are many twists and turns on this thrilling ride. The 50 foot drop is amazing! And you go backwards too. Get a Fast Pass and experience Expedition Everest as the lines are generally pretty long.

And what about the older, more traditional Disney World roller coasters? I have to say that my least favorite is Space Mountain. Yes it is innovative but I guess I have just ridden on it too many times. The steepest drop on Space Mountain is 39 degrees. The fastest it gets is of 28 miles per hour – yes it feels faster than that but it just isn’t my favorite.

A great Disney roller coaster to start with is Big Thunder Mountain. This really is a roller coaster for all the family. It is pretty mild, but just a great experience riding round all the twists and turns and gentle drops. As soon as the kids reach the height requirement of 40″ this is a great one for them to start with.

When you think of Disney World guests don’t always realize that there are some really excellent thrill rides to experience. And whilst of course it isn’t a roller coaster, don’t forget Disney World’s Hollywood Tower of Terror. A very different experience but if you like roller coasters you are going to love this!

Photos used under Creative Commons from expressmonorail

Booking an Orlando Villa – A Good Experience?

March 4th, 2009 by Alison | 2 Comments | Filed in Orlando Vacation Homes

You know sometimes you start out thinking something will be easy and then find out it is just so much more complicated than it should be? Well I certainly found this when I offered to help a guest find a vacation home. This lady had contacted me about renting one of my Windsor resort or Solana vacation homes.

All of my vacation homes were booked, but I had got talking to her and really wanted to help her find something. So I decided to do what I know all my guests do – start to search for a Disney vacation home on the internet.

I knew that it wouldn’t be that easy. The dates were around Easter and I knew that the best homes would already be booked. I hoped for either a new home or a cancellation – or somehow to find a hidden gem somewhere! I have a lot of contacts with homes to rent and none of them had anything available. So I had to search around on the internet.

The first thing I noticed was how time consuming it was. All I wanted to do was find a vacation home on the internet and then email or call them and get an answer within a reasonable amount of time. Well it didn’t quite happen like that. My phone calls were ignored. I think I gave up after talking to about 10 answering machines! Emails were ignored. Some owners responded but weren’t available. One responded that it was available but then it turned out he was confused! What really surprised me was the wall of silence! I just couldn’t get anyone to respond and actually help me.

After waiting all weekend I called one agent again. She was polite but in the middle of our conversation obviously wanted to answer the other phone in the office so cut me off before I got the chance to ask her the things I needed to. She wanted me to book on the website. I had some more questions. They weren’t answered.

I sent the details of the one house to the potential guest. She liked the house and tried to contact the agent too. No reply.

The happy end to the story is that this guest did find a home. And I found a guest who I enjoy comparing notes with about our Disney World addictions!

I admit it was an eye opener for me. I know the Disney vacation home business very well as I have been doing this for nearly a decade! I do always try and see things from my guests point of view. Booking a home on the internet is a great option. But it is time consuming and can be overwhelming. I almost gave up but was determined to find something. I got tired of being ignored!

I know there are many vacation homes in the Kissimmee and Davenport areas. I know there are many excellent owners and agents. I have had the pleasure of talking and knowing many of them. But I was surprised at the lack of customer service and care I experienced in my search.

If you just want some help finding an Orlando villa then use the Contact Me form at the side of this post. You can be sure that I will respond and do my very best to help!

Windsor Palms Rentals

March 2nd, 2009 by Alison | 1 Comment | Filed in Orlando Vacation Homes

Just how far in advance do you have to book a Windsor Palms home? I have been thinking about this question a lot over the weekend as I have been trying to find a home for a guest of mine. My search started on Friday and I realized pretty quickly that the whole resort is booked for the dates that she needs. Speaking as a Windsor Palms home owner of course this is a great thing – but not so good for the guest. It is now Monday morning and I am still looking for a good quality home for her. The guest understandably thought that the economy would be having an impact and there would be homes available. Thankfully I am glad to report that certainly from my experience then this is not the case – 2009 is shaping up to be my best year ever with more bookings than ever.

So how far in advance do you have to book a Windsor Palms home? Do the best ones go first? Or will you get a bargain if you wait?

Sometimes you will get lucky and if you leave it until the last moment to book you will get a discounted rate. But this can be a bit of a lottery. Think of it just like a cruise ship. Obviously a ship has a limited amount of space with cabins of varying size and quality. Windsor Palms has a limited amount of space with homes of different sizes, locations and quality. If you leave it to the last moment to book on a cruise ship you may get a cheap rate, but the only cabin left may be the least desirable inside view. Hit lucky and you will get a balcony view at a great rate. Your choice will be limited. Or perhaps, as this lady found this weekend, there is no more room left at all and you just can’t get in.

Can you get a discount if you book early? I am going back to the cruise ship idea again – yes I like cruises almost as much as Disney vacations! The way the cruise industry is set up is that generally the earlier you book the better rate you get. They know they have a certain amount of cabins to fill and will let the discount ones go first and then the prices start to go up as they know what to expect in terms of occupancy. Some vacation home owners, including me, may also work this way. I am taking bookings for 2010 for all my homes and offering these at 2009 rates. But as soon as I get a certain number of bookings for 2010 then the rates will go up. So get in now if you are thinking of a stay at the resort.

So the best advice I can give? Book ahead. The best homes do tend to go first. Everyone wants the best locations in Windsor Palms particularly my most popular homes the conservation view 5 bed home, and the 4 bed home which is located on a really large, private lot. So if you want your pick of the best – and of course I hope you think mine are the best – then you do need to book early. Some dates such as July, August, Easter, Christmas and major Holidays book up to a year in advance. Other times such as May are slower times of the year so you may be able to get that last minute break. So as soon as you the dates you may need a Windsor Palms home – get booking!

Have I yet found a home for my guest? I spent hours at the weekend looking. First I used all my contacts. Nothing available. Then I started looking on the internet just as anyone looking for a home would. And I was amazed at how difficult it was. I know where to look and I found it almost impossible. Then if I found anything no one got back to me. I am waiting for a call this morning – someone promised to get back to me. It will be interesting to see if they do………